Do you know when you’ll be able to retire? The answer to this question relies on a lot of variables, namely how much you’re making. Financial advisors recommend having as much as 12 times your income sitting in a retirement fund, but this magic number can be a challenge to reach as pensions disappear and economic factors limit personal savings. If the thought of working until the day you die scares you, then you need to start thinking about how you can retire in comfort. Here are four tips to help you start saving, so you can retire well — even on a small budget.

  1. Start saving as early as possible

One million dollars used to be enough to promise a comfortable retirement. Now, financial experts are saying this sizeable nest egg isn’t enough. They’re calling it a “million-dollar poverty” that makes it hard for people to self-fund their own retirement.

With a target that exceeds one million dollars, your goal will be difficult to reach in a short amount of time. Savings, especially in a high-interest account or dedicated retirement fund, will be easier to build when you give yourself time. If you have decades to prepare for retirement, your contributions can be a small percentage of your paycheck. If you wait until you’re already in your 40s or 50s to prepare for your retirement, you’d have to contribute a larger chunk of each paycheck to hit the same targets.

  1. 2. Learn to budget well

Everybody wants to have it all — the beautiful home, the latest gadgets, the coolest car, and the most fashionable clothes — but few can afford to multi-task like this. When you buy these things, you’re concentrating on the here-and-now rather than your future. It can be difficult to buy these momentary pleasures and afford to put savings into your retirement fund at the same time.

A budget can help you establish your priorities. If you want to contribute regularly to your retirement, you’ll have to figure out where this money is coming from. In some cases, it means you’ll have to sacrifice buying the latest electronics or designer brand clothes. The alternative is finding a better paying job or getting a second one to support your expensive tastes and your responsible retirement fund. Since changing careers or adding to your workload is a lot harder than cutting back on expenses, you’ll want to think about making a budget first.

  1. Don’t just save

In this day and age, putting your money in a basic savings account is the equivalent of hiding your cash under the mattress. While you’re technically saving, you aren’t earning interest on these savings. Interest is what can really help you prepare for large purchases and retirement.

When you’re ready to start saving, you need to investigate your options. You need to figure out if a high-interest savings account is better than mutual funds, a 401(k), or a Roth IRA. If you work for an employer that matches your contributions to your retirement fund, you should also take advantage of this program. Depending on your account, an employer can match your contributions dollar-for-dollar up to 3–6 percent of your income.

You should also look into less traditional savings methods, like robo-advisors and ETFs to earn cash with the stock market. Even inexperienced investors have an opportunity to make money when they use simple investment apps to help them build their first portfolio.

  1. Don’t touch your specialized savings account

Your retirement fund is only for your retirement. It isn’t a way to fund your vacation, pay for an essential roof repair, or put your children through university. This fund protects you in your old age, so you need to protect it from expenses that could limit how much you save for your retirement.

This can be a challenge when chugging along, making regular contributions. When you have a sizeable sum sitting in a 401(k) you may think it’s not a big deal to dip into this money when you face short term financial emergencies. In the grand scheme of things, a car repair or vet bill isn’t that much money compared to your retirement fund, so it’s easy to justify using some of it to cover these kinds of expenses.

When it comes to the non-essentials, the most effective answer is also the simplest. If you don’t have the extra cash to go on a holiday or buy a Google Home, then don’t buy it. Your retirement fund is not meant to cover these kinds of expenses. Instead, you should wait until you have enough pin money to pay for these unnecessary splurges.

When it comes to essential repairs or bills you can’t cover, your retirement fund still isn’t the answer. You’re better off turning to an online installment loan for unexpected expenses outside of your budget. They’re designed specifically for when you find yourself a little bit short paying a surprise bill or repair. They’re also easy because you can find them online. Lenders like MoneyKey use their online platform to streamline the borrowing experience, making the installment loan process easier and more convenient than traditional cash loans.

Using online installment loans during an emergency prevents you from leaching your savings from your retirement, so you aren’t forced to delay when you retire. It also saves you from paying the penalty of withdrawing from something like a 401(k) before you’re of age.

At the end of the day, preparing for your retirement can be a challenge. Money isn’t the only thing you’ll need to invest in your future. You’ll need to devote time and effort to learn the best savings tricks to help your cause. But once you figure out how to jumpstart your retirement plan, you’ll feel so much better about your golden years.